Mentoring Myths

  • 3 mins read

In the last decade, the concept of mentoring has changed, but the need for career counseling has not. In fact, mentoring is more important than ever because most careers take numerous twists and turns in a rapidly evolving world.
In “Demystifying Mentoring,” a February 2011 Harvard Business Review blog post, Contributing Editor Amy Gallo identifies four common mentoring myths:
Myth #1: Mentoring is a formal long-term relationship. Because the business world moves fast and people frequently change jobs, a long-term advisory relationship may be unrealistic. Mentoring can be a 1-hour session; it needn’t be an official 6-month assignment.
Instead of focusing on the long term, think of mentoring as a tool you can access when you need it. Of course, advice and guidance may be more relevant if they come from someone who knows you and understands your goals. But you still need to build relationships so you have connections in place when you require advice. In some instances, you may wish to consult people who don’t know you as well, but can offer a fresh perspective.
Myth #2: You have to find one perfect mentor. It’s actually quite rare these days for people to get through their careers with only one mentor. In fact, many people have several esteemed advisors. Seeking a variety of perspectives on a crucial issue may be warranted.
Myth #3: Mentoring is just for junior-level employees. Many people assume they need a mentor only when starting their careers. In reality, professionals at every developmental stage can benefit from a mentoring relationship. You may be surprised to find that reverse mentoring often occurs (a senior manager, for example, learns technology skills from a junior employee).
Don’t wait for problems to occur to find a mentor. Whether you are making a career change, taking on a new role or contemplating leaving a job, solicit advice from someone who has experienced a similar transition.
Myth #4: Experienced professionals mentor out of the goodness of their hearts. It can be an honor to be asked to mentor someone, but the relationship is about more than respect for a trailblazer. Mentoring should be useful to both parties. Think about what you can offer a potential mentor:

  • Can you provide a unique perspective on his role in the organization?
  • Do you bring valuable outside information that can help your mentor in her job?

While not a direct barter, you may be able to offer your prospective mentor a promise of future assistance.
In the work I do with clients, many of them hold one or two of these misconceptions about mentoring. Don’t let erroneous assumptions hold you back. Don’t stop yourself from asking to be mentored by someone you assume won’t be interested. Ask and explore the possibilities. The person you ask may have valuable ideas for you.

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